How Do I Get Data Off of the Hard Drive in a Dead Computer?

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My computer died on me. I can’t get it to boot up. I need to take the hard drive out and pull my files off from it. How do I retrieve the files from the hard drive in a dead computer? Thanks for any help you can give me.

This is a pretty common scenario. Depending on what caused the computer’s demise, there’s a relatively good chance you can retrieve the information off that hard drive.

Of course, if it’s the drive itself that caused the failure, things get a little more interesting.

There are several approaches to this problem. I’ll start with my favorite: not needing to do it at all.

Read moreHow Do I Get Data Off of the Hard Drive in a Dead Computer?

A Drive with All My Data is Showing as Unformatted — What Do I Do?

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I recently replaced my system hard drive and have taken my old internal hard drive out and installed it into a external enclosure. When I plug it in, it shows up on my computer, but without a file system label, only a letter designation (G). Disk management says it is unformatted. It was NTFS as an internal drive. I’m concerned that if I format it, I will lose all of my data now stored on the drive. What steps do I take to format this external drive without losing my files? Or am I missing a step in accessing the information on the drive?

First, don’t format the drive.

Formatting will erase whatever’s on the hard drive, or at minimum, make it extremely difficult to recover your data.

I do have some suggestions of next steps to take instead.

Read moreA Drive with All My Data is Showing as Unformatted — What Do I Do?

How Do I Recover My Data from a Crashed Computer?

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My screen displays a blue screen error message and won’t allow Windows to start. How do I retrieve my files and save them before I reinstall Windows?

Reinstalling Windows is going to overwrite everything that’s already on that hard drive and you would lose it all. There are some alternatives.

Before I begin, I first have to wag my finger at you. Regular readers of Ask Leo! probably already know what I’m going to say.

Read moreHow Do I Recover My Data from a Crashed Computer?

Why is my partially recovered document still not readable?

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Hi, Leo. I have a sticky situation here. My daughter accidentally overwrote a written document and lost 60 pages of her story. We’ve tried recovery tools, such as Recuva and Undelete. She may have recovered some of it, but she’s unable to open it. It’s a Word Perfect 12 document and when we try to open it, it says it’s an “unsupported format.” We cannot understand how it was saved or recovered in a different format. Just to let you know we have it still. I’ve tried emailing it as an attachment to different people who are better at computers and no one so far has been able to open it.

Your situation is actually not that uncommon.

These days, file formats are complex and the programs that read them are often unforgiving when there’s something wrong with the file.

When only portions of a file are recovered, some of the information that the application relies on to open and interpret the file is so badly damaged that the application can’t  even recognize the file to open it.

Typically, that happens when the first few pieces of the file are missing. But it actually can happen if any piece of the file is missing, out of order, or just otherwise unrecoverable.

Read moreWhy is my partially recovered document still not readable?

Do I need to have a separate data backup if I backup my system regularly?

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I’m evaluating a free version of Macrium Reflect. If I make a disk image, it contains everything that I need to restore my Windows XP and also my data such as documents and settings, etc. Now if I do incremental backups to this full disk backup, it backs up my data and the OS files. Given that, why do I need to have a separate full backup of my data only and then make differential backups of the data only? Is not all of that covered in the system backup?

It sounds like there’s some confusion here about the types of backups and when you may want to use them.

No, you don’t necessarily have to do an additional backup of your data. Ultimately, it depends on what you’re working on and what you can withstand to lose.

Read moreDo I need to have a separate data backup if I backup my system regularly?

Why does my computer continually reboot?

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Hi. My PC will not start. It continually reboots even when you try to start it in all the different modes. There is a flash of the sign-in screen and the flash of a blue screen, but it just keeps on rebooting. I’ve tried disconnecting the power supply for extended periods of time thinking that this reset it. I now have a new laptop computer, but all I want to do with the old PC is to get my music files from it and download it into the new laptop for my iTunes and iPod. Hope you can help.

There are a couple of different things that could be going on, but as you’re just trying to grab the data off of that PC, you have a few options.

The solution for this depends on the version of Windows that you have and from your description, I can’t tell what you’re running, so I’ll look at some of the most common solutions.

Read moreWhy does my computer continually reboot?